The world isn’t fair. Personal, corporate, community and national assets are not distributed equally. Intelligence, wealth, and power may vary greatly from individual to individual. Yet, the life distance we measure as a day travels equally for every person on earth. This same window of time is available to all; regardless of individual intelligence, wealth, health or power. However, in retrospect we can see that some periods during our life or business were dramatically more impactful than others. While the seconds, minutes, hours and days marched on at a rigid pace, not all days presented the same opportunity window.
A former business leader of mine once said that for a stable business with modest growth a year is a year. However, a business experiencing fast growth must treat every quarter as a year and every week as a month; and a business experiencing hypergrowth must respect every month as a year and every week as a quarter. In other words, time is egalitarian (i.e. there are 24 hours in every day for everyone), but time is not equal for all people in all situations.
If it takes a calendar month to develop an “annual” business plan and you are a hypergrowth business, you spent a whole “year” planning and no time executing. If it takes three weeks to close the books and issue financial reports, the “year” in a hypergrowth business is 75% complete before the business know how well it’s doing.
It does not take much thought to identify rate of change as the distinguishing factor between stability and hypergrowth. Time speeds up when my life/business experiences a high rate of change. If I do not recognize times of rapid change and correspondingly adjust the pace at which I plan, decide and act, then I risk falling behind or missing a window of opportunity.
But be careful! In order to appropriately adapt we must recognize that our minds can warp our perspective of time. Consider how often you have heard someone remark how quickly the year has flown. Contrast that with your memories of the interminable wait for Christmas Day as a child. And, if you stop and think for a few moments, you can also recall periods of time as an adult when time seemed to stand still. Don’t ask me how that happens. The best analogy that comes to mind is the difference between high-speed and time-lapsed photography. A high-speed camera takes many frames per second, but when replayed at normal speed gives the appearance of slow-motion. On the other hand, time-lapsed photography compresses time and allows us to actually observe slow rates of change that are undetectable at normal speed.
I can only speculate that our minds possess remarkable potential to adapt to high rates of change. However, extended periods of stability can also slow our minds. This is why bright people with long experience in large corporations may struggle or even fail in a fast-paced entrepreneurial environment.
Bottom line…you must learn to recognize the signs of the time and adjust your behaviors accordingly or risk getting either left behind or overrun. As the iconic American humorist, Will Rogers once said, “You may be on the right track, but if you are just sitting there, you will get run over.”
Putting it into practice. How can I leverage the relativity of time?
- Take time to reflect and train my mind to recognize the present pace of time in my life and business
- Adapt my rhythms of planning, decisions and actions to suit the times
- Take advantage of slower times to crystallize and capture lessons from past failures and successes; so that I am prepared to readily apply them to future problems and opportunities
- Commit to a lifetime of learning. Leverage times of stability to learn new skills and explore new arenas.